One of the signings (or re-signings, for that matter) that I was most excited about during the 2021 offseason was Carlos Dunlap. When the Seattle Seahawks acquired Dunlap in mid-2020 from the Cincinnati Bengals, he immediately became an important force on the defensive line, racking up six sacks with the team during eight appearances (incl. playoffs).
However, more than halfway through the season, it’s clear that this signing has failed. Although Dunlap’s contract wasn’t massive, and the Seahawks have plenty of cap-room, he hasn’t played up to expectations, nor to the two-year, $8.5 million guaranteed deal the Seahawks signed him to.
As the defensive lineman with the second-biggest cap hit on the team in 2021 (behind L.J. Collier), Dunlap has managed the second-fewest tackles along the line, with just 18 tackles (beating out Collier this time) and only has 0.5 sack and no solo tackle for loss. His snap count has fallen dramatically as the season progressed, to a season-low 17 against Arizona, before he shattered that mark with just four snaps at Washington, one of which was a costly third-down offsides penalty. His snap count has decreased each of the last four weeks, while other rushers like Alton Robinson and Rasheem Green have earned more playing time.
It’s not like Dunlap is being squeezed out of snaps because the Seahawks have some incredible pass-rush, though. The fact is, outside of Darrell Taylor, this unit is pretty awful. As a whole, they rank 29th in the NFL with just 1.6 sacks per game. Dunlap was supposed to be one of the key players that would raise this number, and instead he has brought it down.
Furthermore, it’s not just that his numbers are going down because he’s getting fewer snaps; he’s getting fewer snaps because he is failing to produce. Earlier in the season, when Dunlap was playing closer to 50% of defensive snaps, he was almost impossible to find in the statsheet, registering just six tackles and two quarterback hits during his first five appearances. Perhaps the most horrific performance of this stretch was in the road win against San Francisco when Dunlap player 47 defense snaps (62%) and failed to register a single tackle or quarterback hit. This was coincidentally the only game where Dunlap cracked his 2020 defensive snaps average, which was 56%.
Perhaps this was the performance that really turned off Ken Norton Jr. from letting him take the field; the next week, Dunlap saw just 20 (30%) of snaps in the Seahawks’ loss against the Rams, and he hasn’t cracked 40 snaps again since. At this point, I see no problem with significantly limiting Dunlap’s snaps and giving our young edge rushers the chance to develop; not only because they could be more productive, but also because this season is a lost cause regardless of how well they perform.
While the Dunlap deal wasn’t some hugely consequential failure that will cost our organization for years to come, there is no doubt it was a failure nonetheless. Honestly, I don’t really blame the organization too much for this, either; given his production last year, it would have been hard to predict this drastic of a decline. Despite this, time has told that his deal was probably a waste of money (money that otherwise would have been spent on not upgrading the offensive line).
That being said, I do hope Dunlap turns things around the second half of this season and proves he deserves a roster spot in 2022. I just don’t see where such a dramatic uptick in productivity would come from. For now, it’s safe to consider him washed-up.